Saturday, May 28, 2011


Leonard C.Haas blathering as Ceal Phelan looks on

The Lantern Theater Company, located and 10th and Ludlow Streets, is presenting Vigil through June 12, 2011. “No one likes me so I’m not surprised that you don’t,” Kemp, played by Leonard C. Haas, announces to his aunt as he arrives in her apartment. For the most part, the audience agrees with his estimation. He is not a very likable character, albeit a somewhat pathetic one. An elderly Grace, portrayed by Ceal Phelan, responds to his unusual greeting with a shocked stare. And so the first act continues-- Kemp with his brief monologues, pitifully complaining about his life; whining about the lack of attention he has received from his parents and his aunt; begrudging strangers in the neighborhood their moments of apparent happiness; and wondering why the woman in the apartment across the way continues to stare at him. Grace, with her responses, arches an eyebrow; drops a jaw; cocks her head to one side; or opens her eyes wide. The first act encompasses a year, and Kemp, who has quit his job and traveled cross country to help his aunt prepare to die, gets tired of waiting. Passage of time is very cleverly revealed. Scenes are brief and quickly end in a blackout. Snow outside the window and Christmas carols herald winter. A baseball thrown into the window is an earmark of spring. Music from a Mr. Softee ice cream truck indicates the summer and leaves blown through the window designate the fall. The acting in Vigil is excellent. Leonard Haas has a series of virtual monologues that has the audience feeling a range of emotions from apathy to pity, to shock, and eventually compassion. But it is Ceal Phelan who steals the show. She has only a few lines and they occur in the second act, but in reality, she does not need all of them. The range of her facial expressions is immense. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then one of Ceal Phelan’s looks is worth a whole script. Lighting Designer Janet Embree has done an excellent job with this production. There are many blackouts during which characters change position on the stage. To enable them to see their way to their new “mark”, the set is designed with small strategically-placed glow-in-the-dark lights. These enable the actors to find their way around the stage and to move unseen during a blackout. Christopher Colucci must also be commended for his sound design.  Not only do various sounds signify the seasons, but additional music also adds a touch of the macabre. Be sure to see this powerful, heartrending production unfold before June 12 and watch out for the surprise ending. For more information or tickets call 215-829-0395 or visit online at

Thursday, May 26, 2011


Sophie reads a romance to Salima and Josie in their room

Ruined, the 2009 Pulitzer Prize winner for drama, is being produced by the Philadelphia Theatre Company at the Suzanne Roberts Theatre located at Broad and Lombard Streets through June 12, 2011. Set in a small Congo village in an establishment run by Mama Nadi, Ruined gives a peek at the life of women in a country torn apart by the strife of civil war. Heather Alicia Simms brilliantly portrays Mama as she staunchly protects her girls, keeps peace between warring factions by insisting ammunition be checked at the door before the soldiers can be served, and sings to the  beats of the African drums. Although Mama is a “tough cookie,” Christian, endearingly played by Oberon K.A Adepong, provides a perfect foil.
Ruined has been written with precision by Lynn Nottage  It is the back-story that tells the  true stories of the characters as the  play unfolds. Any question the audience might have at the end of the first act is answered by the end of the second. Erika Rose’s portrayal of Salima, one of Mama Nadi’s newest acquired girls, is heart-wrenching. Chandra Thomas, in her role as Josie, the more experienced girl at Mama’s, gets an opportunity to display her outstanding athleticism and excellent dancing ability as she slithers in front of the patrons and across the stage. Keona Welch does an excellent job of portraying Sophie, the pretty girl who is ruined but reluctantly accepted by Mama because she can sing.... and does she ever sing those African melodies! The all star ensemble cast is rounded out by U.R., playing Jerome Kisembe; Paul Meahejian, playing Mr. Harari; Jamil Mangan, portraying Commander Osembenga, James Ijames, as Fortune; Sean-Michael Bowles and Khris Davis as soldiers and Jordan McCree playing the drums. It is not difficult to see why several of these actors have had Barrymore nominations as well as other acting awards. Many also have Broadway, off-Broadway, TV and movie appearances to their credits.
Kudos must be given to costume designer Janus Stefanowicz for Mama’s colorful garments and to set designer Antje Ellermann, for the ingenious way not only of devising a set on a turntable so that costumes changes could be made behind while acting continues in another room, but also having three scenes at once- the inside of Mama’s establishment, outside her side porch, and in front of Mama’s place.
There are many categories that have great potential for Barrymore nominations in this wonderful production. For further information or tickets call 215-735-7356 or visit online at

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Little Women

The March girls with their Marmee

The Bristol Riverside Theatre, located at 120 Radcliffe Street in Bristol, Pa, concludes its regular 2010-2011 season with the Broadway musical, Little Women.  The all star cast features several award winning actors in addition to some Broadway performers. Their experience and expertise work to form an ensemble cast that succeeds in projecting a family image. Jennie Eisenhower, who plays Jo March, wows the audience with the breadth of her voice. She is almost constantly on stage and is able to project a wide range of emotions as the oldest March sister who is independent, and, as a symbol of hope, is determined to make her own way in the world. Kara Dombrowski, in the role of younger sister Amy, has a smaller, but equally demanding part. She begins the play as a young impetuous girl and ends the play as a sophisticated young woman. Both Stephen Schellhardt as Laurie Laurence and Michael Sharon as Professor Bhaer do an excellent job in their roles as foils for Jo. Very cleverly staged, Jo frequently reads the short stories she is trying to get published while characters dramatize the action on the side of the stage. Her enthusiasm is contagious and the audience is with her 100%. Many story lines have a character that everyone loves to hate, and Cathy Newman, as Aunt March plays the role brilliantly with her stern demeanor and her insistence on “proper etiquette.” Special mention must go to costume designer Millie Hiibel for the authentic Civil War period costumes and to set Designer Roman Tatarowicz for creating such an effective set that enables the audience to literally go three places within a period of seconds. A sliding screen fence opens and closes to reveal two sets that rotate on a circular device. While actors are on stage in one, the other can be changed before it rotates to the front. To see a charming musical with wonderful voices and strong ensemble acting, head out to BRT by May 22. For tickets or further information, call 215-785-0100 or visit online at

Friday, May 6, 2011


Keith Conallen and Corinna Burns

Flashpoint Theatre Company is presenting the Philadelphia premiere of Phoenix at the Second Stage at the Adrienne, 2030 Sansom Street through May 28. In a 90 minute one act romantic comedy, Corrina Burns and Keith Conallen play Sue and Bruce, two strangers who are reunited four weeks after sharing an almost date of “drinks and….” Hats off to playwright Scott Organ for giving his characters such realistic dialogue. Corinna and Keith both take the dialogue and run with it.  No matter the age of the theatre goers, everyone can easily identify with two young adults who are filled with insecurities about themselves and each other. The dialogue is frequently halting, as one might expect with two people who don’t know each other very well, yet are thrown together in an awkward situation. Frequent blackouts not only denote passage of time but also give the characters the opportunity to move furniture around the stage and do easy, but effective costume changes. One of the most charming things about this piece is its is left wondering……For tickets or further information on this quirky comedy, call 215-665-9720 or visit online at